US Company to Stop Sales of Genetic Tech in China’s Xinjiang

February 21, 2019 Updated: February 21, 2019

BEIJING —Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. says it will no longer sell or service genetic sequencers in China’s mostly Muslim region of Xinjiang following criticism that they were used for surveillance that enabled human rights abuses, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The company in Waltham, Massachusetts, cited its “values, ethics code and policies,” according to the Journal. The company said it recognized the importance of considering how products “are used—or may be used—by our customers.”

Thermo Fisher faced criticism from human rights groups and American lawmakers for supplying the equipment used to identify individuals in Xinjiang. Over the years, the region has been transformed into a vast security state, packed with police stations, street cameras, and security checkpoints at which electronic identity cards are scanned.

The Chinese regime has used the excuse that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions with the ethnic Han Chinese majority to crack down on the local population in Xinjiang.

Thermo Fisher didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment left on the company website.

According to U.S. officials and U.N. experts, as many as 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are detained in political education camps in Xinjiang where they undergo political indoctrination and are forced to denounce their faith. Former detainees have reported cases of torture, forced medication, and rape.

The United States and other governments have criticized the crackdown. In May, a U.S. congressional commission on China wrote a letter asking the Commerce Department to prevent American technology from being misused by Chinese police.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering sanctions against Chinese officials and companies involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Last year, the U.S. Congress banned government agencies from buying surveillance products made by Hikvision, China’s leading manufacturer of surveillance cameras. Hikvision has collaborated deeply with Beijing to develop AI-enhanced technology for monitoring its citizens, including in Xinjiang.

U.S. companies have also been called out for assisting the regime in building surveillance infrastructure that can be used for repression. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), at a congressional hearing last July, criticized Google for opening an AI research center in China, and Thermo Fisher Scientific for supplying DNA-sequencing equipment to Xinjiang police.

The Epoch Times contributed to this report.

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